Microsoft Cortana

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Microsoft Cortana.svg
Cortana WP8.1.png
Developer(s) Microsoft
Initial release April 2, 2014; 10 months ago (2014-04-02).[1]
Available in
Type Intelligent personal assistant
License Proprietary

Microsoft Cortana is an intelligent personal assistant developed by Microsoft for Windows Phone 8.1,[2] Microsoft Band,[3][4] and Windows 10.[5]

It is named after Cortana, an artificial intelligence character in Microsoft's Halo video game series, with Jen Taylor, the character's voice actress, returning to voice the personal assistant's US-specific version.[6]

Cortana was demonstrated for the first time at the Microsoft BUILD Developer Conference (April 2–4, 2014) in San Francisco.[1] It has been launched as a key ingredient of Microsoft's planned "makeover" of the future operating systems for Windows Phone and Windows.[2] As of 2015, Cortana is available as a beta to all users of Windows Phone 8.1 in the United States (US English), China (Mandarin Chinese), and the United Kingdom (UK English). Users in certain countries can also choose to opt-in to the alpha for the English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish versions of Cortana as of August 2014.[7]

Microsoft expects Cortana to be available globally by early 2015.


Cortana's features include being able to set reminders, recognize natural voice without the user having to input a predefined series of commands, and answer questions using information from Bing (like current weather and traffic conditions, sports scores, and biographies).[8][9][10] Windows 8.1's universal Bing SmartSearch features are incorporated into Cortana, which replaces the previous Bing Search app which is activated when a user presses the "Search" button on their device.[11] Cortana also includes a music recognition service.[12] Cortana can also roll dice and flip a coin by asking the commands "roll a dice" (one die), "roll the dice" (two dice), and "flip a coin",[13] Concert Watch is a feature that helps Cortana determine which bands or musicians you are interested in by monitoring your Bing searches.[14] Cortana also integrates with the Microsoft Band for Windows Phone devices if connected via bluetooth.[15][16] On the Microsoft Band Cortana can make reminders and bring phone notifications.[17]

Since the Lumia Denim series, launched in October 2014, active listening was added to Cortana, enabling it to be triggered with the phrase: “Hey Cortana,” even across the room and without the need to touch the phone. After the trigger phrase is spoken, Cortana can be controlled normally for tasks like setting a reminder, asking a question, or launching an app.[18] Some devices from the United Kingdom by O2 have received the Lumia Denim update without the feature but this was later clarified as a bug and Microsoft had since fixed it.[19]

Cortana also integrates with services like Foursquare to provide restaurant and local attraction recommendations.[20]


The "Notebook" is where personal information such as interests, location data, reminders, and contacts will be stored for access by Cortana. Cortana will be able to draw upon and add to this data in order to learn the user's specific patterns and behaviors. The user will be able to view this information, with the aim of offering greater control over privacy settings by allowing them to specify what information is collected, "a level of control that goes beyond comparable assistants".[21] Users can also delete information from the "Notebook" if they deem it undesirable for Cortana to know.[22]


Most versions of Cortana take the form of two nested, animated circles.[23] The circles are animated to indicate certain activities such as searching or talking.


Cortana features a "do-not-disturb" mode in which users can specify "quiet hours", something that is already available for Windows Phone 8.1 users.[24] Users can change the settings so that Cortana calls users by their names (or nicknames).[22] It also has an extensive library of Easter Eggs, consisting of witty and pre-determined remarks.[25][26]

Cortana correctly predicted the winners of the first 14 matches of the 2014 FIFA World Cup knockout stage, including the semi-finals, before it incorrectly picked Brazil over the Netherlands in the third place play-off match. This streak topped Paul the Octopus who correctly predicted all 7 of Germany's 2010 FIFA World Cup matches as well as the Final.[27][28][29][30] Furthermore Cortana can also predict the games of various other sports such as the NBA, the NFL,[31] the Super Bowl,[32] the ICC Cricket world cup[33] and various European Football Leagues. Cortana can also solve mathematical equations, convert units such as between Celsius and Fahrenheit, meters and feet, and calculate the exchange rate between currencies including Bitcoin.[34]


The Chinese version of Cortana, Xiao Na

Cortana is region-specific, and adapts its voice to match the everyday language, culture and speech patterns of the country its user lives in. For example, the UK version of Cortana speaks with a British accent and uses British idioms, while the Chinese version, known as Xiao Na, speaks Mandarin Chinese and has an icon featuring a face and two eyes.[35] Cortana also localizes to fit the needs of its user, and will display relevant information on subject areas such as local sports teams, businesses, TV series and stock exchanges. Cortana has been released in several countries since its launch including the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Canada, Australia, India, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy and is expected to come to more countries over time.[36]

The UK(English)-specific version of Cortana is voiced by Ginnie Watson, an Anglo-French actress, singer/songwriter and voice-over artist.[citation needed]

Language Region Status
English United States United States Beta
United Kingdom United Kingdom[37] Alpha
Canada Canada[16] Beta
Australia Australia Beta
India India Beta
German Germany Germany[38] Alpha
Italian Italy Italy Alpha[39]
Castilian Spain Spain[40] Alpha
French France France Alpha
Mandarin Chinese China China Beta


Cortana updates are delivered independently of those to the main Windows Phone OS,[41] allowing Microsoft to provide new features at a faster pace.[42] Though not all Cortana-related features can be updated this manner as some features such as "Hey Cortana" require the Windows Phone update service.[43]


  1. ^ a b Lau, Chris (18 March 2014). "Why Cortana Assistant Can Help Microsoft in the Smartphone Market". The Street. 
  2. ^ a b Foley, Mary Jo (4 March 2014). "Microsoft's 'Cortana' alternative to Siri makes a video debut". ZDNet. 
  3. ^ Martin, Julia (30 October 2014). "Microsoft brings Cortana to wrists with $199 Microsoft Band". Inferse. 
  4. ^ Griffiths, Sarah (30 October 2014). "Microsoft joins the world of wearables: New Band monitors your fitness levels and sleep quality for $199". Daily Mail. 
  5. ^ "Windows 10: A New Generation of Windows". Redmond, Washington: Microsoft. 2015-01-21. Retrieved 2015-01-21. The Cortana personal digital assistant, which debuted on Windows Phone last year, will now also be available on Windows 10 PCs and tablets [...]. 
  6. ^ Blair, Nancy (3 April 2014). "Who is Cortana? It's Halo's Jen Taylor". USA Today. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Microsoft. "My interests and Cortana". Windows Phone. Retrieved 19 June 2014. 
  9. ^ Microsoft. "Remind me, Cortana". Windows Phone. Retrieved 19 June 2014. 
  10. ^ Warren, Tom (2 April 2014). "The story of Cortana, Microsoft's Siri killer". The Verge. Retrieved 19 June 2014. 
  11. ^ Edmonds, Rich (11 February 2014). "Developers leak Windows Phone 8.1 SDK, reveal new features". Windows Phone Central. Retrieved 19 June 2014. 
  12. ^ Burgess, Brian (19 April 2014). "Use Cortana on Windows Phone 8.1 to Identify Songs". GroovyPost. 
  13. ^ Popa, Bogdan (6 October 2014). "New Cortana Features on Windows Phone: Flip a Coin and Roll Some Dice". Softpedia. 
  14. ^ Smith, Emily (17 October 2014). "Cortana will be more like Google Now". LOAD THE GAME. 
  15. ^ Kniskern, Kip (29 October 2014). "Microsoft Band: cross platform, yet Better Together with Windows Phone (and Cortana)". 
  16. ^ a b none, Ron (30 October 2014). "Say hello to Microsoft Band, a $199 fitness band that keeps you fit and lets you check emails and texts too". WinBeta. 
  17. ^ Burlacu, Alexandra (30 October 2014). "Microsoft Band fitness tracker with Cortana debuts alongside Microsoft Health service: Here's the deal (VIDEO)". Mobile & Apps. 
  18. ^ Rubino, Daniel (12 January 2015). "Hands on with 'Hey Cortana' and the Lumia 930 Denim update". Windows Central. 
  19. ^ Nirave, Author (3 February 2015). "O2 Lumia 930 Denim update lands without “Hey Cortana” [Updated]". Fonearena. 
  20. ^ Newman, Jared (29 July 2014). "Windows Phone's Cortana taps Foursquare to suggest nearby places of interest". PCWorld. 
  21. ^ Hachman, Mark (21 February 2014). "Microsoft's Cortana digital assistant guards user privacy with 'Notebook'". PCWorld. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  22. ^ a b Warren, Tom (3 March 2014). "This is Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Siri". The Verge. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  23. ^ Kleiman, Jacob (3 March 2014). "Windows Phone Cortana Mobile Assistant Detailed in New Leak". TechnoBuffalo. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  24. ^ Sabri, Sam (15 April 2014). "How to set up Quiet Hours and Inner Circles on Windows Phone 8.1". Windows Phone Central. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  25. ^ Warren, Tom (15 April 2014). "Clippy replaces Cortana in Windows Phone 8.1 Easter egg". The Verge. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  26. ^ Kessler, Derek (15 April 2014). "Cortana Easter Egg resurrects Clippy as your personal digital assistant". Windows Phone Central. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  27. ^ "Cortana’s unbroken streak ends with Netherlands 3:0 win over Brazil". 12 July 2014. Retrieved 13 July 2014. 
  28. ^ Backaitis, Virginia (11 July 2014). "Why Microsoft's Cortana is 14 for 14 Calling World Cup Matches". Retrieved 13 July 2014. 
  29. ^ Akash KJ (10 July 2014). "Germany Will Beat Argentina to Win FIFA World Cup 2014 Final Predicts Cortana". International Business Times. Archived from the original on 10 July 2014. Retrieved 13 July 2014. 
  30. ^ Wint, Bradley (9 July 2014). "Cortana maintains winning streak, correctly predicting 14 games in a row". Retrieved 13 July 2014. 
  31. ^ Manfred, Tony (28 January 2015). "The Microsoft Engine That Nailed The World Cup Is Predicting Every NFL Game — Here's Its Pick For The Super Bowl,". Business Insider. 
  32. ^ Curdie, Lewis (2 February 2015). "Super Bowl winner correctly predicted by Windows Phone Cortana". Mobot. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  33. ^ Allison, Micheal (8 February 2015). "Bing now predicts ICC Cricket World cup". WMPowerUser. 
  34. ^ Sieber, Tina (28 January 2015). "Here’s how to make the most of Cortana, the Windows 10 digital assistant". Digital Trends. Retrieved 29 January 2015. 
  35. ^
  36. ^ Wilhelm, Alex (5 December 2014). "Microsoft Releases Cortana In 4 New Countries". Techcrunch. 
  37. ^ Novet, Jordan (25 June 2014). "Cortana will land in China and the United Kingdom in the coming weeks". Venturebeat News. 
  38. ^ Whitney, Lance (5 December 2014). "Microsoft Cortana expands to French, Italian, German and Spanish". CNet. 
  39. ^ Surur, Author (2 February 2015). "Cortana’s Italian improves". WMPowerUser. 
  40. ^ Hernandez, Pedro (5 December 2014). "Cortana Goes Globetrotting in European Alpha". eWeek. 
  41. ^ Lee, Tyler (21 July 2014). "Cortana Will Enable Itself Automatically, No Action Required". Ubergizmo. 
  42. ^ Ali, Fahad (6 October 2014). "CORTANA CAN NOW ROLL SOME DICE, FLIP A COIN". Eye on Windows. 
  43. ^ Tofel, Kevin C. (18 December 2014). "Lumia Denim update arrives, bringing Cortana and better pictures". Gigaom. 

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